How to lead… late people

We can all be a little late now and then, however I bet we all know someone who is consistently unpunctual and has a repuatation for it! When someone is frequently sloppy with deadlines and diaries it can leave others on the team feeling frustrated, unvalued and even angry. What’s more is that if others see this behaviour not being dealt with, they share their frustraton with both the late-comer and the leader! So how can we handle late people?

Ask questions

When a team member has missed a deadline, sit down with them (after the heat of the moment has passed) and ask “can you take me through the steps that resulted in this task being late?” Listen to their answer. Ask questions to help them identify the key behaviours / events which impacted the result. “Would it have been easier if you felt you had a little more confidence?” “Are you saying you needed more help at this stage?” “So you’re saying you should have completed it before going on annual leave?’ Then ask them the question, “What will you do next time to ensure you are not late again?” Maybe even go through the steps with them one-by-one to ensure there is a clear way forward.

Share how it impacts the team.

At an appropriate moment, calmly explain the natural consequences that impact others from the lateness of the individual in question. “Because you arrived late it meant we had less people to set up, meaning we had to delay opening for the service users, which meant we got complaints about waiting times.” Or something like, “Because of this delay it means we have to push the project back another week.” It’s even ok to talk about the emotions of the team, “I have noticed that some on the team are getting frustrated at you not arriving on time. This is means our team harmony isn’t as strong as it could be. I need you to be on time please.

Work backwards.

If helpful, spend sometime with the individual helping them to plan their timeline in future and breaking the task into smaller milestones.

  • The flyers need to be distributed on 31 May
We need them ready in the office on 29 May
  • We need them to be printed 27 May
The printer has a 1 week turnaround so they need to have them by 20 May
  • Design needs to be finished by 18 May
Joel Preston

Joel Preston

Director at
Joel is the Director of Evangelism & Mission for British Youth for Christ. He had previously been involved in church-based youthwork for over 10 years and before that spent 4 years at a local Youth for Christ centre.

He specialises in delivering leadership and people management training in a ministry context and has taught for various organisations across the country, including SoulNet, Innovista, SWYM and Youthwork the Conference.
Joel Preston

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